[CFMS] Scale of Size

The manor system presents a few big design issues that seem to orbit around the concept of scale. I’ll be talking about these over the next few days. My first issue has to do with the scale of size.

How can you represent a few acres of farmland and an administrative division of a county in the same system? How can you represent a single family of people and a full town of people in the same system? How can you represent enough stone to build a modest home and enough stone to build a cathedral in the same system?

Anything that needs to be measured in the manor system is measured in step-die ranks: d4 through d12. That’s five distinct measurements to use. Five measurements does not give us much to work with if we use a linear system:

  • d4 – 10 people
  • d6 – 20 people
  • d8 – 30 people
  • d10 – 40 people
  • d12 – 50 people

So the obvious next step here is that each step should increase exponentially in what it represents. The purse in the core rules already works this way. Each step is worth two of the step below it. Two d4 purses can be combined to form a d6 purse. If we use the same 2:1 ratio for population sizes, we get the following:

  • d4 – 10 people
  • d6 – 20 people
  • d8 – 40 people
  • d10 – 80 people
  • d12 – 160 people

This is much better – we start to get the sense that each rank tells a different story. A d4 is about a (large) family. A d8 starts to be a pretty big crowd. A d12 is a good sized work force. But you would still need a lot of d12s to fill up a town. You could make each rank represent more, but then you loose the smaller end of the scale.

So my next step is to increase the ratio. This is what we get when we use a 4:1 ration of one step to the next highest:

  • d4 – 10 people
  • d6 – 40 people
  • d8 – 160 people
  • d10 – 640 people
  • d12 – 2560 people

And now we hit the sweet spot for what I want each step to represent. When they fight, d4 populations can get involved in skirmishes and d12 populations are clearly at war. The numbers just feel right.

The downside is that keeping track of this just got a lot messier. If you have three d6 populations of people it’s not quite enough to combine into a d8, but it’s still significantly more than one d6. So now a particular measurement is tracked using three dice instead of one. Now if a d4 population leaves that 3d6, you end up with 2d6 and 3d4 people. It all turns into a strange decimal system of dice. Like I said, it’s messy.

I sometimes play around with the idea of a 2:1 ratio of dice conversion but keeping the 4:1 ratio of representation. Would it be okay to combine two d6s of 40 people into one d8 of 160 people? There’s a big disconnect there, and while it could be explained away as an abstraction, it feels strange. Where do those other 80 people come from?

For now, I’m sticking with a strict 4:1 ratio. But this is something I keep coming back to trying to find a cleaner, more elegant solution to.

Check back tomorrow as I bring up scale in another dimension: the dimension of time.

  1. [CFMS] Scale of Time « JeremyKeller.com - pingback on November 25, 2009 at 9:09 am
  2. [CFMS] Scale of Play « JeremyKeller.com - pingback on November 26, 2009 at 9:12 am
  3. Why do you need such precision? If a d4 group of people leave a population center of 3d6, it’s still a population center of 3d6. Or better yet:
    d4 = a family
    d6 = a clan
    d8 = a village
    d10 = a city
    d12 = a province
    So, let’s say a family moves out of a village, it’s still a village, and still a d8. If a family breaks away from a clan, well then that’s a judgment call that depends on the story. Maybe the clan split because it was too big (so, one d8 split into two d8s).

  4. Hi David. It’s not so much that I need precision, as much as I need the manipulation of dice to be meaningful. One of the first things you need to do with manor creation is split your population of tenants into two groups: villeins and free peasants. That division needs to have an impact on the dice.

    I like your idea of a particular rank getting too big. It’s always been in my head that each rank represents a range of the population. So, despite the hard numbers I used above, a d4 population is 4 to 10 people. A d6 is 20 to 40. I’m working on a notation now to indicate if that rank is on the high side of the range or the low side. If I can elegantly include that information, then that might allow me to switch back to the 2:1 ratio rather than the 4:1 ratio.

  5. I realise this is late to the post, but is it necessary to have such big jumps in a feudal setting? Even the highest Lord is unlikely to rule directly a large domain. Instead, he’s going to farm out divisions of land to lesser Lords, who give him service instead.

    Maybe you could have another stat (or even system) that determines how many lesser Lords owe you allegience? That leaves direct domain management to a reasonably small level.

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